This Friday, Hans-Joachim Watzke is celebrating his 60th birthday with his nearest and dearest. The football-mad entrepreneur has been the chief executive at Borussia Dortmund since 2005, having been a fan of the club since the 1960s. He has additionally served as the president of his hometown club Rot-Weiß Erlinghausen for 25 years.

In his role as CEO, which he has occupied since 2005, Hans-Joachim Watzke took steps to ensure a bright and stable future for BVB, whom he saved from the jaws of insolvency and – together with the club president Dr. Reinhard Rauball and his executive management colleague Thomas Treß – turned into a flourishing "medium-sized enterprise with the pulling power of a DAX company". Reflecting on that transformation, Watzke said: "My realistic expectation at the time was that it'd all be over in 6-8 weeks. I had no idea it'd be a decision that would shape my life."

"It's safe to say neither of us will ever forget 14 March 2005 –  it was the day, during the first few weeks of our cooperation and after months of existential fears hanging over us, that BVB was saved from going bankrupt," said Rauball, as he cast a glance back to that pivotal period over a decade ago. He continued: "Given the circumstances, our Borussia's subsequent and lasting success is still scarcely believable and wouldn't have been possible without the foresight, ambition, financial expertise and vision of Aki Watzke. Together we've experienced two Bundesliga titles, two DFB Cup triumphs and many unforgettable European evenings. During this time, it has become clear that one does not necessarily need to have everything in common to be successful side by side." Alongside the four aforementioned titles, Watzke's tenure has seen the Black & Yellows reach five other finals – including the first and only all-German UEFA Champions League final between Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich in 2013.

Sporting director Michael Zorc spoke of a "profound relationship of trust" with Watzke, which has "grown over the years", adding: "With the energy he radiates, it's scarcely believable that he's turning 60." Carsten Cramer, who has been a member of the management since 2018, described Watzke as an "extraordinary character, a visionary and a strategic thinker who is full of dynamism but at the same time knows where he comes from and what he stands for".

The business studies graduate, a native of Marsberg in Sauerland, has been a passionate BVB fan since his youth. As an entrepreneur, he made the company he founded, Watex, into an important manufacturer of protective clothing, but withdrew from the executive management to ensure his full and undivided attention would be on his responsibilities at Borussia Dortmund. Watzke himself enjoyed a successful playing career at amateur level, turning out in the heart of midfield for his hometown club Rot-Weiß Erlinghausen for 30 years. Speaking to kicker magazine, a smiling Watzke said: "I was a nightmare for every coach and only had two strengths: I was good on the ball and could score goals."

Under Hans-Joachim Watzke's leadership, Borussia Dortmund's on-pitch success has been matched by its impressive financial growth. BVB has no financial liabilities, while the group's turnover during his time in charge has risen from €83 million in the 2005/06 financial year to €536 million in 2017/18. "It was the start of a marathon, as I said back in 2005," said Dr. Rauball. "How nice it is that we're still working side by side on your 60th birthday. Always reliable, full of trust and tackling the matters at hand. My warmest congratulations." Managing director Thomas Treß paid tribute to an "excellent cooperation" and wished his colleague "happiness and health for many wonderful years to come". (br)